A new season is here and nothing says autumn like pumpkins. Jack-o-lanterns, holiday decorations, roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pies celebrate the magnificent orange fruit. (Yes, pumpkins ARE a fruit.)
But what if you want to cook or bake with pumpkin? Halloween or jack-o-lantern pumpkins are grown for their size, not for cooking. They’re watery, stringy and lack flavor. Sure, their seeds can be roasted but leave these for carving. Most grocery stores and nurseries have “cooking” pumpkins and are labeled as such. You’ll recognize them; they’re smaller and have names like “Baby Pam,” “New England Pie Pumpkin,” Small Sugar Pie Pumpkin” and other varieties. They weigh between 4 and 8 pounds, have thinner skin and are much sweeter. Pumpkin pies made with fresh pumpkin have a noticeably fresher taste. No canned tin taste here!
Two pumpkins are more than enough to use in your favorite pie recipe. Follow the easy instructions below to cook your own.
- Wash and cut out the stem and bottom of your pumpkin.
- Cut in half and scrape out all the seeds and stringy “stuff” into a bowl. Save and set aside. (More on that later)
- Line a flat baking sheet with foil and lightly grease with oil. Lay the pumpkin flesh side down, skin side up. (You can also boil/steam the pumpkin but roasting it gives it a smother texture with better flavor)
- Bake at 325 for one hour. Pierce with fork for doneness. Bake until soft and mushy. Remove from oven.
- Let cool. Scrape the flesh into a bowl and discard the skins. Mash the pumpkin until smooth. You now have pumpkin puree ready to use in your favorite pie, bread, or smoothie. Keep refrigerated up to one week.
Remember those seeds and stringy “stuff” you set aside? It seems a waste to toss it so…..bake it all together. I know, I know, our moms had us separate the stringy stuff from the seeds, but try this. Mix it all in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil and spices of choice. You can use salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, or anything that sounds good to you. Spread onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake in a 375 oven for 5 minutes. Flip the seeds and strings and cook another 5-7 minutes. Keep a close eye on your oven, the seeds can burn quickly. You want the seeds lightly browned and crispy, and the strings to look caramelized. When it’s gone your kids will ask for more.
If you prepare food following raw food principles, the Excalibur dehydrator is my fave prep tool- especially for fruits like pumpkins that can easily grow mold and bacteria- the Excalibur keeps this from happening.